Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on January 28, 2016.

February 4, 2016

Commissioners Hafey and Trotter, with Alternate Commissioner Jones, sat for hearings on January 28, 2016.

1:00 p.m.

I. Expedited Items (Transfers and Hardship Extension):

Applicant Thibault Manekin
Business Name Sterling Seafood, LLC
Trading As N/A: contract purchaser
Address 401 W. 29th St
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Request for a hardship extension under the provisions of Article 2B Section 10-504(d)
Hearing notes

Ms. Caroline Hecker and Mr. Justin Williams, of Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, represented their client and presented their case by way of a proffer. Mr. Manekin purchased the crab house business and property at auction on July 8. The business has been closed since then, and he has been trying to market the property. He is currently in negotiations with a tenant for the property, though the license may be transferred elsewhere. Hecker requested a hardship extension of 180 days. Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth verified for the commissioners that the request was filed within the first 180 days of the business’s closure.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Remington
Area demographics 44% White, 35% Black, 3% 2 or more races, 13% Asian, 5% Hispanic ethnicity; 11% households have children under age 18; median household income: $30,130.79; 14% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes, but the corporate entity is 29th Street Licensee, LLC, not Sterling Seafood, LLC (which does not exist).
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? N/A
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident N/A
Attorney for licensee Ms. Caroline Hecker and Mr. Justin Williams, Rosenberg Martin Greenberg LLP
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision Art. 2B section 10-504(d)
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

Article 2B section 10-504(d) states that, “180 day after the holder of any license … has closed the business or ceased active alcoholic beverages business operations …, the license shall expire unless” an applicant files a transfer application or a licensee requests a hardship extension. Under subsection (4), the law requires a hearing, at which the Board must make “a finding that undue hardship currently exists causing the closing or cessation of business operations.” Hecker did not tell the commissioners why the business closed and if that condition still existed which would cause a hardship to the contract purchaser. She merely said that the contract purchaser was looking for a buyer for the business.

Applicants Shova R. Serchan & Ginny Evans
Business Name Muna, LLC
Trading As Busy Bee
Address 4500-04 Erdman Avenue
Type of License Class “BD-7” Beer, Wine, and Liquor
Reason for hearing Request for Expansion of Premise
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski represented the applicants and proffered the case on their behalf. Kodenski said that the business, a long time ago, used to be a carryout restaurant but is now just a tavern. The licensees are applying to expand their kitchen to be able to serve food again. His client’s extended family owns the restaurant Kumari, and she intends to serve Indian and American Food, with somewhere between 10-12 tables for dining service. Kodenski said that there aren’t any community groups near this business and that his clients have been there over a year with no problems.

The application was also, seemingly, for a transfer of ownership, because the second applicant’s name is different from the current second licensee’s name, who’s listed as Surya Thebe in the materials provided by the agency on its website.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Orchard Ridge
Area demographics 32% White, 53% Black/African-American, 1% Asian; 11% Hispanic ethnicity; 35% households have children under age 18; median household income: $31,970; 16% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 0.01%
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

Though Mr. Kodenski proffered that there were no community organizations in the area, Cityview lists one: HARBEL Community Organization, which is an umbrella group that covers a large part of Northeast Baltimore.

Applicants Rodolfo Rodriguez & Laura Rodriguez
Business Name Sajhoma, LLC
Trading As Sajhoma Restaurant
Address 1708 Fleet Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership and location transfer from 411S. High Street to 1708 Fleet Street & request for outdoor table service.
Hearing notes

Former Liquor Board Chairman Stephan Fogleman represented the applicant. He informed the Board that the property used to be occupied by an antiques store in Fells Point called “Another Period in Time.” Fogleman described Sajhoma as a “serious restaurant,” which will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The applicants would have applied for a new Class B restaurant license, but they only have 37 seats, which is not even close to the 75 required in state law. They are instead requesting the transfer of ownership and location of a Class BD-7 tavern license. The Fells Point Community Organization (FPCO), however, has a policy of opposing new BD-7 licenses entering their neighborhood, because they believe they have an overconcentration of taverns and other alcoholic beverages licenses. To overcome that policy, the restrictions in the MOU with FPCO are the same as the restrictions on a restaurant license. The hours are restricted, the applicant has agreed to daily sales receipts from food of at least 50%, and they will not have live entertainment or outdoor tables, at least for now. There is no bar inside the restaurant, except a service bar for the use of waitstaff. Fogleman thanked Joanne Masopust for her hard work in coming up with the terms of the agreement between her organization and the applicants.

Ms. Joanne Masopust testified that FPCO did not entirely support the BD-7 transfer, because of their longstanding policy. She stated that there are at least 72 operational liquor establishments in her neighborhood, and the ones that are the most difficult are the BD-7s. Masopust said that her group would have wholeheartedly supported a restaurant license, but they believed that this version of the Board would not have listened to their opposition to the transfer. She expressed concern about the business plan, because, in her opinion, it is a bad time for new restaurants to be opening when established restaurants are having a hard time financially.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Fells Point
Area demographics 53% White, 32% Black, 8% Asian, 3% 2 or more races; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 6% households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $38,331; 5.5 % households live below poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 1%
Attorney for licensee Former Liquor Board Mr. Stephan Fogleman
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of community members 1
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None.
Applicants Satish C Dhall & George Greason
Business Name 6200 Reist, Inc
Trading As Joe’s Place
Address 6200 Reisterstown Road
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Shawn Harby represented the applicants. He informed the Board that the business is being sold by Lois Finifter, the surviving sister of the former licensee, for $411,000. His clients do not want to change the look or feel of the bar and will keep on the employees. Harby said that Mr. Dhall had contacted the Glen Neighborhood Improvement Association, and he plans to meet with them on February 24. There is no kitchen, only alcohol service, but they may decide to install a kitchen, which they understand would require another hearing. There are about 20 seats in the bar.

Zoning B-3-1
Neighborhood Reisterstown Station
Area demographics 28% White, 63% Black, 1% Asian; 5% Hispanic ethnicity; 27% households have children under age 18; median household income: $37,372.32; 18% of households living below the poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 5%
Attorney for licensee Mr. Shawn Harby
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Applicants Sung Ae An & Delores Johnson
Business Name ACA Liquors
Trading As Eric 500
Address 500 E. North Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. David Woo represented the two applicants. He told the commissioners that Mr. An, the current licensee, has decided to pursue another business and is transferring his interest to his wife, Sung Ae An. The Baltimore City licensee, Ms. Johnson, has a 0.5% financial interest in the business, which Mr. Woo had submitted as an amendment to the original application, 21 days before the hearing. Woo stated that there would be no change to the operation of the business. The community has not made any objections to the transfer. Woo said that his client had been in contact with local community organizations, but “nothing official.” Ms. An has eight years’ experience at another location. In response to Commissioner Trotter’s question about the business’s history of violations, Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth noted that there had been a sale to minors in 2015 and a BD-7 violation as well as a violation for loitering. The community protested the renewal of the license in 2015.

Zoning B-2-3
Neighborhood East Baltimore Midway
Area demographics 1% White, 96% Black, 0% Asian; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 38% households have children under age 18; median household income: $30,821.90.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 0.5%
Attorney for licensee Mr. David Woo
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Applicants Nai Yong Jiang
Business Name N/A
Trading As Yum Yum’s
Address 2501 N. Charles Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership with live entertainment, outdoor table service and off-premises catering
Hearing notes

Mr. Will Bauer, a consultant for restaurant businesses (who is not an attorney), represented the applicant and spoke on his behalf. Jiang currently owns Asia Taste restaurant in Hampden and is purchasing Yum Yums. Bauer had a negotiated MOU with the Charles Village Civic Association, but it did not have all the necessary signatures, because of the large snowstorm that had occurred that week. The outdoor tables requested are 16 seats on Charles Street. Bauer said that his client still has to go through the BMZA hearing to get permission for outdoor tables; that hearing will be March 8. They will also have to get live entertainment permission from the BMZA, which they do not currently have.

Ms. Sandra Sparks, president of Charles Village Civic Association, testified in support of the transfer under the conditions of the MOU. She told the Board about the restrictions on the hours of the business as well as the live entertainment. The licensees have agreed not to pass out any flyers or promotions for special events. Since the building is within the 25th Street urban renewal plan, the business and property owners would need the community’s support for any changes to the exterior of the building.

Zoning B-2-3
Neighborhood Charles Village
Area demographics 53% White, 32% Black, 8% Asian, 3% 2 or more races; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 6% households have children under age 18; median household income: $38,331; 5.5% households live below poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? N/A
Location of entity’s principal office N/A
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 100%
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 3
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

Completeness: Under Article 2B section 10-202(a)(4)(iii), “[t]he Board or the Board’s designee shall examine each application for the issuance or transfer of a license within 45 days of receipt of the application to determine whether the application is complete.” Only after an application is complete may the matter be scheduled for a hearing (subsection (v)(1)). Verification of zoning and/or BMZA approval is required as one of the items that makes an application complete. The applicant, once the application is deemed to be complete, may not change any of the information in the application unless they have made the change at least 15 days in advance of the hearing.

In this case, the licensees pointed out that they still need to get approval from BMZA to have outdoor table service. Therefore, this application to the Liquor Board and the hearing is premature. The Board has never consistently applied this provision of law since it was enacted in the summer of 2014.

Applicant Fiona E. Sergeant
Business Name New America Cooperative, LLC
Trading As New America
Address 429 N Eutaw
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership with outdoor table service and off-premises catering
Hearing notes

Mr. Will Bauer, a consultant for restaurant and other businesses, appeared with the applicant. Bauer corrected the docket: his client is asking for a new Class B restaurant license, not transferring the ownership of an existing license. Ms. Sergeant has been in the restaurant business for a long time, having worked at Clavel, Bottega, and Woodberry Kitchen. The restaurant will be called New America and will serve lunch and dinner. They submitted a menu. The applicant has gotten approval for the business from the Downtown Partnership, as well as for the outdoor seating. There will be 80 seats inside the restaurant, and he presented a capital investment breakdown. Sergeant would like to open on April 1. The applicant testified that she would like to have the option for live entertainment, and there was some disagreement among the commissioners about whether she would need to get BMZA approval for it at that location. Bauer said that he would check into it. The application did not contain a request for live entertainment.

Zoning B-4-2
Neighborhood Downtown
Area demographics 39% White, 37% Black, 16% Asian, 3% 2 or more races; 5% Hispanic ethnicity; 9% of households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $38,146; 18% households live below poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident None submitted in the application.
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

Completeness: Under Article 2B section 10-202(a)(4)(iii), “[t]he Board or the Board’s designee shall examine each application for the issuance or transfer of a license within 45 days of receipt of the application to determine whether the application is complete.” Only after an application is complete may the matter be scheduled for a hearing (subsection (v)(1)). Verification of zoning and/or BMZA approval is required as one of the items that makes an application complete. The applicant, once the application is deemed to be complete, may not change any of the information in the application unless they have made the change at least 15 days in advance of the hearing.

In this case, there was outstanding zoning information that needed to be obtained from Zoning Enforcement or the BMZA (depending on whether or not live entertainment requires BMZA approval). The Board has never consistently applied this provision of law since it was enacted in the summer of 2014.

Ms. Sergeant did not submit a list of authorized persons for the LLC nor their financial interest in the business, as requested on page 2 of the application. She also may not be a Baltimore City taxpayer; SDAT shows the ownership of the building on which she claims to pay taxes belongs to an LLC.

Applicants Haroon Ali & Duk Choon Kim
Business Name Aqsa Services LLC
Trading As Kwang Moo Liquor & Grocery
Address 4742 Frederick Avenue
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Hyunjae Shin represented the applicants. He told the commissioners that he had two minor amendments to make to the application. The first is that the trade name is Corner Mart, not Kwang Moo Liquor. The second is that he amended the ownership structure from 100% owned by Mr. Ali to 99% owned by Mr. Ali and 1% owned by Mr. Kim. He proffered that this change had been sent to Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth on January 14. Shin said that Mr. Kim had operated the business for a long time, before transferring it to Mr. Ali, who was just the previous week sworn in as an American citizen. Shin said that Ali has reached out to the Tremont Community Association and has had regular correspondence with the leadership of the neighborhood to understand their desires and concerns.

Mr. Ali then testified that he has met with community leaders four or five times and will be meeting once a month to deal with issues that arise. Their main concern is loitering, and Ali promised them that he would take care of it. There is a bus stop in front of the building, which may contribute to the loitering issue.

Mr. Ali then said that he bought the store from Mr. Kim over one year ago with the intent of running a convenience store only; he has not sold alcohol since he bought the store. However, since there is no alcohol outlet in the area, people have been asking him to start selling alcohol again, which he intends to do after the transfer of ownership goes through. Commissioner Trotter asked him how long it has been since there was an alcohol sale in the business, and Mr. Ali said that it has been over a year and a half, since before he bought the business. Trotter asked whether the Liquor Board was ever notified that the business had stopped selling alcohol. Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth said that Mr. Kim had submitted a request to reopen in August 2015 and in November 2015 submitted this application for a transfer. Mr. Kim was in Korea between August and November. Shin said that he had talked to the Liquor Board’s counsel, who suggested that they should submit the transfer application as soon as possible.

Zoning R-7
Neighborhood Tremont
Area demographics From U.S. Census American Community Survey 2013 / Social Explorer: 66.8% Black, 23.7% White, 7.7% 2 or more races, .7% other, .6% Asian, .5% American Indian / Alaska Native
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 1%
Attorney for licensee Mr. Hyunjae Shin
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

Zombie License: According to the licensee’s clear testimony, this license has long expired under Article 2B section 10-504(d) (aka the 180-day rule). The 180-day rule states that, “180 days after the holder of any license … has closed the business or ceased active alcoholic beverages business operations of the business for which the license is held, the license shall expire … .” Mr. Ali testified clearly that he had never sold alcoholic beverages since he bought the business from Mr. Kim over a year and a half prior to the hearing. 18 months before January 28, 2016 was July 28, 2014. (Mr. Ali created his corporate entity, Aqsa Services LLC, March 18, 2014.)

The commissioners did not ask for a more specific date for the cessation of alcoholic beverages sales, which is essentially the most important piece of information for them to have known during this hearing. However, using the July 28, 2014 approximate date, 180 days after that, on January 24, 2015, the license expired as a matter of law under Article 2B. It is of no consequence what the (former) licensee did in August or November of 2015. His license had already been expired for months. It is not acceptable for the commissioners to have been active board members for over seven months and not know what information is relevant in this kind of situation.

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